Boeing

Math matters to Boeing

Greg Hyslop

GREG HYSLOP
Boeing Chief Technology Officer
Senior Vice President, Engineering, Test & Technology

As I approached my senior year as an undergraduate, I really didn’t know what aspect of engineering I wanted to specialize in. As a result, I started taking advanced math courses and attended a seminar on the mathematics of systems and control theory. This was when I found my niche, which shaped the remainder of my academic career and a large part of my professional career.

As I approached my senior year as an undergraduate, I really didn’t know what aspect of engineering I wanted to specialize in. As a result, I started taking advanced math courses and attended a seminar on the mathematics of systems and control theory. This was when I found my niche, which shaped the remainder of my academic career and a large part of my professional career.

Stories like this show how mathematics is an indispensable foundational skill in aerospace. That’s especially the case in this age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where we’re seeing breakthroughs in fields like artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning.

Even before this, our work in aerospace has been heavily influenced by finding efficient numerical solutions to Navier-Stokes’ equations. But we didn’t stop there, because once we had a solver, we started wrapping optimizers around these solvers to find the best aerodynamic surfaces.

Math acts as the basic building blocks for the expansive range of complex, sophisticated products and services that Boeing provides. And that’s why this edition of Innovation Quarterly focuses on math.

When I joined the company in 1982, my early assignments focused on design of aided-inertial navigation systems and the first integration of GPS as part of a cruise missile guidance system.  This integration was possible because of the use of Kalman filtering algorithms and the implementation of those in a real-time guidance system. This work leaned heavily on my background in applied math and numerical analysis. The bottom line is that the math made the missiles fly.

Mathematics will continue to be foundational to our work, and I believe its importance is only going to grow.

As our work becomes more and more software driven, as data becomes a critical resource that we mine for insights through analytics, and as the competition drives us to even more optimal processes and designs, this will all be fueled by mathematics.  So enjoy this edition of IQ dedicated to the mathematical sciences… and thank a math teacher the next time you see one!